Every week during the regular season Tim Twentyman will answer 10 good questions from his Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."
* 20man:* It’s both. The Lions have gotten worse running the football in each of Jim Caldwell’s four years in Detroit:
2014: 88.9 yards per game (28th)
2015: 83.4 (32nd)
2016: 81.9 (30th)
2017: 78.0 (32nd)
To think scheme doesn’t play a factor in those numbers would be a bit naïve.
But the Lions need a workhorse as well. Detroit hasn’t had a running back with size, speed and good running instincts for some time now. A back with speed to hit the hole and get through it before it closes, but also someone with some size and strength to break arm tackles and gets those tough yards after contact.
20man: I would agree with you, Steve, that Detroit does need to finally get Matthew Stafford some real help in the form of a respectable run game, but it doesn’t necessarily have to come via a first-round draft pick.
Leonard Fournette has been a terrific addition for the Jaguars as the fourth overall pick, but the top Rookie of the Year candidate, New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara, was a third-round pick, 67th overall.
Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt, who has 1,292 rushing yards and another 455 receiving with 10 total touchdowns, was also a third-round pick (No. 86 overall).
Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook looked like a really good player before tearing his ACL Week 4 vs. the Lions. He was a second-round pick.
This year’s running back class looks to be another good group. I wouldn’t say the Lions need to necessarily address the position with their first pick, but I can definitely see it being addressed in the first two days of the draft.
20man: Is Ziggy Ansah re-signed or tagged? Does Haloti Ngata give it a go for another season? Is Kerry Hyder the same player coming off an Achilles injury?
Those are all questions that will affect free agency, particularly the defensive line, that we don’t know the answer to just yet.
That being said, I like how Detroit’s secondary has come together. Glover Quin continues to be a steady force back there. Darius Slay has become one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Quandre Diggs looks like the real deal at safety. Teez Tabor is coming along nicely. I like that unit.
Now, if the Lions can get more out of the front seven, particularly the front four, I think they’d be on to something defensively. I put defensive end and defensive tackle as the top needs this offseason, along with running back. The Lions will have cap room to address the defensive line both in free agency and the draft. Expect them to do it.
20man: Agnew’s speed and open-field running ability will always be enticing to offensive coaches, but there could be an opportunity for him to play a bigger role on defense next season.
I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m guessing Quandre Diggs remains a safety from here on out. It just depends on where the coaches like him best.
Teez Tabor can play both outside and in the slot, but I’m guessing he gets a look on the outside next season opposite Darius Slay, at least initially. That leaves the nickel cornerback spot open for competition. I’d expect Agnew to throw his hat into the mix there this offseason.
20man: It’s not all doom and gloom, Andrew.
If you look at this roster, there are some things to feel good about. All of the important numbers that measure quarterback play make Stafford a top 10 quarterback in this league.
Marvin Jones Jr. has really come into his own, and I like what rookie Kenny Golladay has shown. He’s only going to get better.
If Eric Ebron’s play the second half of this season continues into 2018, the Lions have a top five tight end in him.
The left tackle (Taylor Decker) and the likely center (Graham Glasgow) of the future are in place. The Lions will obviously hope for better health in 2018 for T.J. Lang (guard) and Rick Wagner (tackle). Both those players are proven performers. I think health really zapped some of their effectiveness this season.
Defensively, the Lions have one of the better secondaries in the NFL, and they’re pretty young.
Detroit will also have some cap room to play with this offseason.
The Lions could be a 9-7 team with a win Sunday, and they started the season with the 13th youngest roster in the league. It only got younger with injuries to Ngata and other vets.
Improvements have to be made, no doubt, but look at what Philadelphia, Jacksonville and Los Angeles were able to accomplish this season. The Eagles and Jaguars went from worst-to-first in their division. Carolina can join them this week with a win and a New Orleans loss.
Minnesota does appear to be set up to be a good team for some time. Rodgers is Rodgers. The Packers always have a shot with him on the field. But no one can ever predict injuries and those unexpected circumstances that can alter the course of a season. Detroit needs to just focus on improving their roster, and we’ll see where that puts them next September.
Bob Quinn has some nice pieces to work with, and he’ll continue to improve the areas he needs to in order to compete with the Vikings and Packers moving forward.
*20man: *I would not be surprised if Riddick is the only familiar face we see in Detroit’s backfield next season. I would guess there’s a rookie or two in the mix and possibly even a veteran. Maybe Tion Green is in there too, but there will most likely be some new faces.
20man: He’s been very good over the last two months, and has proven how much of a mismatch he can be all over the field. He’s playing with a ton of confidence right now.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Lions and Ebron try to work out a longer-term deal this offseason to lower next year’s cap number with Ebron playing on his fifth-year option.
20man: I heard a stat last week that Stafford also leads the NFL in sacks avoided, despite being sacked more than just one other quarterback in the league.
Experience always plays a factor. I think some of the work he did last offseason in California with Tom House and Adam Dedeaux helped with his footwork. We’re seeing some of the fruits of that labor.
It’s been a good upgrade to Stafford’s game. He’s able to extend plays and even make some plays with his legs, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by defenses around the league.
20man: Tell your friend to watch a little closer. The Lions do put Ebron out wide quite often. In fact, both of Ebron’s last two touchdowns came with him lined up outside vs. a linebacker.
The great thing about Ebron is that you can play him wide, in the slot or on the line of scrimmage. Jim Bob Cooter’s done a good job the last couple months with moving Ebron around and finding good matchups for him.
20man: It’s hard to take Riddick off the field sometimes because of what he gives the Lions in the passing game. Anytime a run play is audibled to a pass, who would you want in the game?
But to your point, Green has given the Lions a spark, and I could see him get more carries Sunday, especially if he provides that spark early on.